There are two universal truths: Cool Ranch Doritos are the greatest chip of all time and next year’s quarterback class will never be as good as people say it will be.
People cited the 2018 quarterback crop as reason to pass on investing in young signal callers in 2017. That group everyone was waiting on has been largely disappointing compared to the hype it received. I still think there are good prospects in the 2018 class. It just may not be the home run we were all led on to believe but more on them in a minute.
The Chiefs zigged where some in the league zagged and invested in Patrick Mahomes last draft. They’re grooming him to be the quarterback of the future. The Chiefs have 17 million reasons to move on from Alex Smith and hand the keys to the car to a wildly talented but raw prospect. If the Chiefs don’t make a Super Bowl, they’re probably transitioning to the kid.
There’s another underlying reason that it makes all the sense in the world to make the change: There’s a potential QB crisis looming in the NFL, and the Chiefs are well positioned to take advantage of it.
Why there’s a looming crisis
The zit has been there for a few years now. It may just finally pop in 2018.
There are reasonable scenarios for 16 different teams to be looking for a quarterback next season for a variety of reasons. All 16 will not be end up being involved, but the probability that a team will need to trade for Alex Smith’s services next year are pretty high considering that starting point.
The quarterback market is fragile heading into 2018. If one or two quarterbacks retire, there’s new holes to be filled. Some teams with aging quarterbacks are looking for successors. Some teams aren’t happy with who they have currently. Some teams don’t have one at all. This leaves a ton of question marks heading into February, which is potentially great for the Chiefs.
GMs with quarterback issues should be nervous. There are too many variables at play right now that could put a team in a bind at the most important position in sports. What also helps the Chiefs is that there are a few teams with aging quarterbacks who are likely to have early draft picks. If they use those picks to draft their quarterback of the future, they have further restricted the pool. Even the threat of that should scare some teams.
The Chiefs need to play off of that fear.
If the demand for young quarterbacks is high and there’s uncertainty among teams that they will be able to acquire one, some GMs may be looking for a parachute early on in the offseason. That parachute is Alex Smith. There’s likely a few teams that will want to get out ahead of everyone and acquire a proven signal caller so they’re not caught with their pants down come draft season.
Here’s the list of quarterback situations to monitor:
All these teams have some level of concern over their quarterback’s ability to take them to the next level.
Buffalo - Tyrod Taylor I really don’t believe he should be on this list. I personally think Taylor is good enough for the Bills to be dangerous for the next few years. However, they restructured his contract heading into this year to gain an easy out and are heavy on 2018 draft assets after trading with the Chiefs.
Baltimore - Joe Flacco He played a remarkable stretch of football that won him a Super Bowl and set him up for a contract he has drastically underperformed. They’re also pretty stuck for another few years with him contractually.
Cincinnati - Andy Dalton Can easily get out of the contract in 2018. He’s a prime candidate to reunite with Jay Gruden in Washington if that opens up and the Bengals move on.
Minnesota - Sam Bradford/Teddy Bridgewater There’s question whether or not Bradford’s recent injury is career threatening. Doesn’t sound like he’ll be a reliable candidate to lead a franchise moving forward. Bridgewater is still an unknown just now returning from his knee exploding, and will likely be under contract for 2018.
Miami - Ryan Tannehill They have an easy out of his contract in 2018. There’s mixed reviews about him.
Indianapolis - Andrew Luck This is the least likely team to need a quarterback next year, but there is discussion that Luck’s injuries may be career threatening. It makes what to do with Jacoby Brissett an interesting thing to monitor. Too much uncertainty to say they flip him in 2018.
Life After …
New Orleans – Drew Brees He’s an unrestricted free agent in 2018. So they’re either in life after Brees or potentially looking for his eventual successor here in a few months. Here’s something interesting that came out yesterday on that:
The future of #Saints QB Drew Brees is uncertain, though he's privately said he doesn't want to play anywhere else. Brees is starting to miss throws he usually makes & the team has been in the QB market the past few seasons pic.twitter.com/DT2NA66ZzO— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 12, 2017
Arizona - Carson Palmer Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald and Palmer might be riding off in the sunset together.
Pittsburgh - Ben Roethlisberger Michael Lombardi says if you’re talking about retiring, you’re already on your way out the door. Is 2017 it?
San Diego - Phillip Rivers I think his decline is a little overstated, but he’s definitely not getting any younger. I don’t think 2017 is his last, so a draft and develop prospect makes a lot of sense.
New York Giants - Eli Manning The Giants are rudderless and will be in a great position to draft his replacement. Another draft and develop prospect candidate.
Need a QB
Cleveland - Maybe there’s a third universal truth. They’ll be well positioned to select one early. It’ll be hard for Deshone Kizer to fend off a first round QB.
New York Jets - Good on Josh McCown for keeping the dream alive, but they need a new guy in 2018.
Blake Bortles and Tom Brady have combined for 5 Super Bowl Titles, 4 Super Bowl MVP Awards, 12 Pro Bowls, and 2 NFL MVP Awards.— Blake Bortles Facts (@BortlesFacts) August 12, 2017
Once they don’t have to win in spite of their quarterback, they’re a Super Bowl contender.
Denver – The best quarterback in Denver is their 57 year old general manager. John Elway the GM is starting to get exposed.
Then There’s Kirk
Washington - Kirk Cousins To be fair he’s had some good moments this year. I still don’t trust him. Regardless, he’s going to get a big contract from someone.
Here’s a list of quarterbacks that will be thrown into the potential starter pool.
Alex Smith - Will be coming off a career year at this pace. His replacement is here. Saves a $17 million in cap space when they currently project to have none for 2018. He gone.
A.J. McCarron - I personally think any team willing to make A.J. McCarron their guy is crazy, but at least one team in the NFL wanted to give up significant draft assets for him. I don’t know.
This is the list of guys that could be possibly considered as legitimate draft and develop prospects or first year contributor. I haven’t done a ton of work on any of these guys yet. I do like what I’ve seen from some of them, but the market could push some of these guys higher up than they might normally be taken. These are the popular names:
Sam Darnold, USC - May not even enter the draft.
Josh Rosen, UCLA - Good prospect, character questions.
Josh Allen, Wyoming - Development project with high ceiling. Very polarizing prospect.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma - Rising up boards.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville - Improving passer, as dynamic of a play maker as there’s been at quarterback in years.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State - My early work doesn’t make me think he’s a first rounder, but desperate times.
I have been paying attention for any team intel I can find. I’ve even sought it out. Here’s my best guess.
With too much uncertainty, some teams feel scared and stuck. They hold onto their guy.
Baltimore - Joe Flacco
Minnesota - Teddy Bridgewater
Cincinnati - Andy Dalton Reasonable cap hit, but still in good shape to draft for the future. Least confident about this one. I asked Joe Goodberry (one of the best Bengals follows out there), and he said Dalton probably stays.
Stayyy with me
Washington - Kirk Cousins Neither side is sure of each other, but they’re also not not sure of each other. San Francisco was an obvious landing spot until they weren’t. They either tag him again (which is craaaazy) or come to a long term deal. His decision makes a lot of things interesting. Either way there’s a new hole or one less on the market.
Indianapolis - Andrew Luck Hopefully someone is just being a little dramatic and we get to watch Luck play again. I don’t think this is the end of Luck.
New Orleans - Drew Brees If you believe the report, it’s either New Orleans or he starts doing more jeans commercials. I think they work something out.
Miami - Ryan Tannehill Just a best guess, but with the instability of the QB market, they may have won too many games to be in position already.
New AARP Members
He gone: My gut says Carson Palmer does retire. He just broke his arm and was already showing signs of slowing down.
Not yet: Roethlisberger is a prime candidate, too. But for now, I have him coming back in 2019. Regardless I think we’ll see at least one QB retirement in 2018.
Where teams pick is another critical piece of all of this. Teams with aging quarterbacks looking to add to draft and develop can throw the biggest wrench in this. The Giants are reportedly looking heavily at quarterbacks for instance. Here is the current snapshot:
2018 Draft Order as of 11/14
|3||New York Giants||1-8|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||3-6|
|8||Cleveland (from HOU)||3-6|
|11||New York Jets||4-6|
|24||Buffalo (from KC)||6-3|
|28||Los Angeles Rams||7-2|
So where does Alex go?
So we’re sitting here in February, and there are still 13 teams that you wouldn’t be shocked if they drafted a quarterback in the first round as either one year understudies or immediate starters. McCarron and Smith are available for trade. The only potential trade candidate of the aging quarterbacks is Phillip Rivers. Maybe Eli. Maybe. Contracts make their markets different. Alex’s is more palatable.
Draft trades don’t occur in February, so there’s going to be a lot of nervous teams out there looking. Specifically ones that need immediate help at the position.
I think there’s three prime candidates to acquire Alex Smith next year. One seems the most likely.
Arizona - There are currently six teams ahead of them that are in the quarterback market. They’d have to move up to get a top prospect, and the price will be much higher than what it’d take to acquire Smith.
New York Jets - Shocked they sit on this list right now. Shocked. This could change if they keep losing games. They’re really Major League-ing things there.
Jacksonville - They are built for Alex Smith to be their next quarterback. The complementary pieces around him make them a Super Bowl contender if he’s their guy. Elite defense, terrifying running game, Allen Robinson likely back next season. That team has a chance. Picking later in the first round makes it unlikely they can grab a plug and play prospect.
I think you can figure out who I think is the best dance partner. Tom Coughlin probably loves him some Alex Smith and he’d be a great fit in Jacksonville. As for compensation? I’ve asked a few people what they think and a second and third round pick have been thrown around. Considering the state of the market, I think they get a second. Maybe they get a late round pick as well.
AP contributor Super_G was nice enough to give me feedback on a question he asked on Big Cat Country on how Jags fans would feel about acquiring Alex Smith. It’s worth reading.
There’s still a lot of time before this whole thing plays out. I do think there are several very realistic scenarios that will put the Chiefs in a situation to get good compensation for Alex Smith. If the Chiefs don’t win the Super Bowl, then this is the next best thing.
There really are several different ways this can play out in the Chiefs’ favor. A retirement or two, a quarterback stays in school. It could also go the opposite way with a Smith injury for instance. The way Smith has played though may still warrant a solid return even if the market doesn’t play out to their benefit. The Chiefs got a good return on their investment trading for Smith in 2013. There is a large range of outcomes to cash in up significantly this offseason.